Last time, I reported on the business librarian/business vendor discussion. Here are notes from a few other programs I attended at the Charleston Conference in early November.
Liaison Librarians in the Know: Methods for Discovering Faculty Research and Teaching Needs
Nora Wood (Business Librarian) and Melanie Griffin (Special Collections Librarian) of the University of South Florida led this “Lively Lunch” discussion:
Using a case study of a liaison re-envisioning project at a large, research-intensive public university as the framework for this session, we will discuss methods for determining the curriculum and research needs of faculty across disciplinary boundaries and ways for promoting library resources and services to departments across campus. [from the program description]
Nora is a new business librarian. Melanie is also the English Liaison. Nora is teaching a one-credit class for first year students on making the transition to college. As an aside, she noted that her teaching experience is helping her better understand the needs and experience of freshmen.
The USF librarians discussed how their library is re-envisioning their liaison model in response to faculty needs. In the process, they are discovering challenges in better understanding faculty research and instructional needs. USF is a fast-growing campus with 50,000 students, 42,000 of which are based on the main campus. But they only have 13 liaisons! (I complain that our liaison count has not grown as the UNCG student body and number of UNCG librarians have grown, but maybe our staffing level here is not as disappointing as I tend to think.)
Their environmental scan indicated that project and service learning classes are on the rise, with fewer classes writing traditional research papers (that would be good news to me!) They also examined usage data, interviewed administrators, and assembled lists of faculty publications. The USF librarians decided their questions should be tailored to the audience (administrators v. faculty, etc.) and should not be library-centric.
The USF librarians then pondered how to use this data to take action, and how to better communicate liaison services to faculty and academic departments.
One discussion point from the lively lunch participants: segment the researchers: untenured, tenured, named chairs, graduate students.
The USF liaisons identified areas of emphasis on campus:
- Freshmen success (retention)
- More online classes
- Instruction still the emphasis, not research (according to the administrators, at least).
So action items taken or planned:
- Textbook affordability project
- Creating a first-year experience librarian position
- Assisting with online classes
- Asking to join more campus committees
Going forward, the questions for the liaisons include:
- How to share all this collected data?
- How to incorporate all this into daily liaison work?
- How to measure if they are meeting current research and instruction needs?
Nora and Melanie alternated summaries of the USF experience with assigning us small group discussions. We ended with a final discussion involving everyone. Key points made:
- Should do targeted outreach, instead of trying to target everyone. You will get better returns on your time.
- Tap into campus goals, ex. the USF goal of 100% employment after graduation. Support that goal in any way you can. (Nora is already working with the Career Services Center.)
- Is this research into campus needs a one-time project or ongoing? (A sustainable project? When does the ROI for learning something new get too low?)
Seeing that Students Succeed: Rising Expectations and the Library’s Role in Teaching and Learning
Kate Lawrence (Vice President, User Research, EBSCO Information Services) and Roger C. Schonfeld (Director, Library and Scholarly Communication Program, Ithaka S+R) led a discussion based on Ithaka S+R’s latest US Faculty Survey and recent research from Ebsco’s User Research Group.
Ithaka’s main finding is that “In recent years, expectations have increased not only for the library to demonstrate its impact on students but for universities to increase retention, progression, graduation, and later-life outcomes”. Ebsco studied “student research practices and the challenges they face, as well as the kinds of librarian-faculty partnerships that are effective in supporting students.” [quotes from the program description]
Much of this is not new to folks following trends in liaison roles. We could compare some of these findings to the ideas expressed at Nora Wood and Melanie Griffin’s Lively Luncheon (see above).
Roger’s study asked professors by type of school (4-year, masters, doctoral) to identify the most important functions of an academic library. He presented summary graphs. Information literacy was identified as the most important library function at both 4-year schools and masters-level schools. For doctoral schools, the functions of archiving, information literacy, providing access to research (ex. subscriptions), and supporting research were ranked very close. But over time, information literacy is growing in emphasis for all types of schools.
Kate described her unit’s ongoing ethnographic study of students and faculty in the U.S., U.K., and China. U.S. students tend to research and write papers using “microbursts of activities” rather than a steady amount of work over time.
Students’ research behavior is driven by efficiency. Some compared their research strategies to finding shortcuts to finish a level in gaming. Meanwhile, faculty research strategies are often driven by tradition. Adjunct instructors often feel left out but want library support.
The most impactful role of librarians in influencing student behavior is when the librarian is in the classroom teaching research alongside the professor.
There was some audience discussion. There are many models of embedded librarianship, but sustainability of that work remains a concern. It’s necessary to prioritize which classes to target.
There is a need for more assessment strategies to link library usage to student success and retention.
Several librarians expressed frustration with students who avoid reading scholarly journal articles, or don’t read past the abstract. I suggested (based on some interesting discussions I listened to at LOEX) that there is limited value in having lower-level undergraduates using peer-reviewed research articles in first place. Those young college students don’t have a background in the specialized, intellectual concepts (and jargon) used within an academic discipline, and certainly don’t have an understanding of scholarly research methodologies, especially statistical analyses used so often in social science and natural science research. More appropriate sources would be feature articles in intelligent magazines like the Atlantic or the Economist.
Rolling On or Getting Rolled Over? Introducing New Functional Specializations in Academic Libraries
Rachel Fleming-May (Associate Professor, School of Information Sciences; University of Tennessee) and Jill Grogg (Licensing Program Strategist, LYRASIS, previously an electronic resources librarian) discussed how “individual functional specializations develop as sub-professions of academic librarianship.” They also compared “findings from large-scale surveys of librarians in two areas of specialization: Electronic Resources Management and Assessment.” [They noted that the Library Assessment Conference was going on at the same time up in D.C.]
Much of the discussion focused on how these specialists grow their skills and gain professional development. Rachel and Jill provided a bit of history. A decade ago, many of these functional specialists did not have a MLS, but now most do.
Rachel summarized a 2009-10 survey of ER librarians. The favorite method of professional development of these librarians was consulting with counterparts. They compared that survey to a 2015-16 survey of assessment librarians. The main tasks of these librarians was writing reports. Professional development focused on collaboration, but conferences and publications were also important.
The audience asked questions about other specialist roles, like first-year instruction or student success librarians. Are those also functional specialists? The speakers thought those roles overlapped with instruction librarians. They emphasized that functional specialists are based on specialized knowledge, but could be focused on public service, such as data service librarians. Someone noted that assessment librarians also need skills in telling stories and conducting ethnographic research.
I was interested in learning how functional specialists in these emerging areas do professional development. The discussion of definitions isn’t very important IMO. All functional specialists need development support, and the public service functional specialists need to collaborate with their local subject liaisons (and vice versa) to work their magic across campus.